Text by James Bow. Photographs by various contributors.
The Route at its Greatest Extent
Starting out at Luttrell Loop at the eastern city limits of Toronto's Danforth Avenue, the Bloor Streetcar picked up passengers deposited by suburban buses stopping at the terminal. There, the car trundled west along Danforth Avenue, across the Prince Edward Viaduct and along Bloor Street to the western city limits at Jane Street. There, cars turned at Jane Loop, another terminal where passengers from west suburban buses disembarked to transfer for the journey east.
The Bloor Streetcar was augmented by several tripper services. Rush hour King Streetcars ran west from Dundas to Jane loop until 1954. The Danforth Tripper ran along Danforth Avenue from Luttrell Loop to Church Street before turning south and looping downtown until 1954 as well. After 1954, the Danforth Tripper turned back at a new loop at Bedford Road and Bloor Street. Other tripper services included Sherbourne, Church and numerous other streetcars entering into service from Danforth Carhouse at Coxwell and Danforth. Whereas the Yonge Streetcar served its corridor alone, and primarily with Witts and trailers, the Bloor-Danforth corridor was a good place to spot all manner of streetcar types serving a number of different routes.
A History of Streetcars on Bloor Street and Danforth Avenue
The history of streetcar service on Bloor Street begins in 1890. In that year, the Toronto Street Railway Company began laying down track on Bloor Street, starting west from Sherbourne. This line was not finished before the Toronto Street Railway's charter expired, and the line was opened on May 29th under City of Toronto ownership. Horse cars began running on a twenty-minute headway between Sherbourne and Clinton Streets. The line was soon extended to Christie Street.
In September 1891, the City of Toronto granted a 30 year franchise to the Toronto Railway Company. Bloor was first extended to Dufferin, and then the TRC altered service on Bloor Street, inaugurating the famous 'Belt Line' operating in a circle in both directions along Bloor, Sherbourne, King and Spadina. Bloor was rerouted south on Spadina, east on Queen, south on York and east on Front to Yonge street. On December 2, 1892, this service was rerouted to run between Spadina Avenue and Dufferin only.
Electric cars came to Bloor Street in 1893, on August 1st of that year. On January 1, 1896, this service was renamed Bloor & McCaul and was extended back to the intersection of Front and Yonge in the downtown. In May 1896, the western terminus was extended to Lansdowne Avenue. The Bloor route name was revived in November 11, 1909 as part of a new service operating from Lansdowne Avenue to Church Street. Alternate Bloor & McCaul streetcars started running downtown via new tracks heading south on Ossington from Bloor, and east on Harbord to Spadina. On November 16, 1911, this branch was formalized into the Harbord Streetcar. Despite all of this activity on the eastern end of the Bloor routes, Lansdowne proved to be the furthest west the Bloor Streetcar would reach for the next thirty years...
The Toronto Civic Railways Extends Service.
The Toronto Railway Company became reluctant to extend service further west for a number of reasons. For one thing, the presence of the railway tracks between Lansdowne and Dundas proved to be an effective barrier. Later, however, although TRC tracks were soon laid on Dundas Street to Bloor, the company showed no interest in taking Bloor service further west from there. Likewise, the stretch east of Broadview was going unserviced. By 1910, the TRC was entering into the latter part of its charter, and didn't want to spend the capital required to extend service with only a few years left to make money from it. Also, the City of Toronto had annexed vast tracts of land which it wanted developed -- they needed streetcar service in order to open these areas up, but to the TRC, that was not a money making proposition.
So, as has been discussed before, the City of Toronto decided to go it alone. In 1912, work began on the Danforth Streetcar, with tracks running east from Broadview Avenue (and the end of one of the TRC's lines) to the new city limits at Luttrell Avenue. This TCR line opened on October 30th, and was instrumental in the development boom in this area that followed. To the west, work began on the Bloor West route in 1914, with the single track line opening for service between Dundas Street and Quebec Avenue on February 23, 1915. Later that year, this route was double tracked and, in 1917, extended to Runnymede Road on "temporary track" on the north side of the road.
Although these extensions brought much needed service to these outlying areas, public transportation on Bloor and Danforth remained fractured between four routes. Very little progress was made on closing all the gaps and producing a true crosstown service. A gap between Sherbourne Street and Broadview Avenue was closed on December 14, 1918, however, with the opening of the Prince Edward Viaduct over the Don valley and the Rosedale Ravine. At that time, the City of Toronto laid tracks between Sherbourne and Broadview and the Toronto Railway company altered Bloor service to run from Lansdowne Avenue to Broadview. The old Bloor & McCaul route, operating downtown via Spadina and McCaul, disappeared -- the last double-named route of the TRC. No connection was made between the Toronto Civic Railway's Danforth cars and the Bloor cars, however, and passengers still had to pay another fare to transfer between the two routes.
The Toronto Transportation Commission Bridges the Gaps
Soon after the Toronto Railway Company's charter expired, the newly-formed Toronto Transportation Commission set to work integrating the Toronto Civic Railway's track into the new system. The TTC did not close the remaining gaps on Bloor Street right away. On October 3, 1921, service began on a new 'Broadview' route, operating from a new loop at Luttrell Avenue, via Danforth and Broadview to downtown Toronto.
Bloor cars continued to wye at Broadview until November 1921, when rush hour service was extended east on Danforth to Coxwell Avenue. To the west, the TCR's Bloor route was renamed 'Bloor West' and extended to a new loop at Jane Street. While it operated between Jane and Dundas, the tracks at Dundas were connected with the rest of the system, and King Cars extended west during rush-hours. The western gap took time to bridge because of the work required to build safe crossings with the railway tracks; why the TTC didn't establish through service between Lansdowne and Luttrell right away remains a mystery.
Through service finally came about through a major restructuring that took place on July 1, 1923. Finally, crosstown service existed between Luttrell Loop and a wye at Lansdowne Avenue. Broadview cars were changed into King cars, and King cars continued to augment service on the Bloor West route during rush hours. To the east, Church Tripper cars provided additional service during rush hours between Coxwell Avenue and Church Street before turning south on Church to loop downtown via Front, Yonge and Wellington streets. A week later, this tripper service was combined with a new Danforth Tripper line operating west from Luttrell Loop Two years later, on August 25, 1925, after VIP opening ceremonies the day before, the last gap was closed, and Bloor cars ran west, beneath new railway underpasses, to Jane Street.
In the years that followed, other services appeared to augment the Bloor line. Rush hour King cars continued to provide service between Jane Loop and Dundas Street to the west. To the east, the Danforth Tripper ran between the downtown and Luttrell Loop, looping downtown via Queen, York and Richmond. The Sherbourne tripper ran for a few years starting in 1933 between Coxwell and Sherbourne before heading downtown. This was eventually replaced by the Church Tripper, which ran from Luttrell Loop to Church Street, before following the Danforth Tripper downtown and looping via Front, York and Wellington. In addition to all of these tripper services, Carlton and Carlton tripper cars pulled other commuters from the eastern suburbs down from Luttrell Loop.
The Last Days and Why they Came
In 1946, the City of Toronto residents approved a subway plan that would have had a north-south line beneath Yonge Street and an east-west streetcar-subway beneath Queen Street. Eight years later, the Yonge line was a reality. Twenty years later, subway trains were running beneath Bloor Street. Why the change of plan?
In 1946, a Queen subway made sense as it provided a subway intersection at the busiest intersection in downtown Toronto. As Toronto and its suburbs grew throughout the fifties, however, it grew to the west, the east and the north. As a result, suburban commuter traffic shifted, such that east-west commutes took place on Bloor Street instead of on Queen. This was especially prevalent in the eastern suburbs, where the northeasterly curve in the Lake Ontario shoreline cut off Scarborough patrons from Queen Street. When the Yonge Subway opened in 1954, specially constructed safety-islands were placed at the Bloor/Yonge intersection, giving passengers direct access to the subway, and commuters from Scarborough found the Bloor Streetcar to be the most convenient means of accessing the subway and getting downtown.
A number of the downtown trippers disappeared when the Yonge subway opened, replaced by a rerouted Danforth tripper that operated between Coxwell and a new Bedford Loop, serving the special transfer platforms at Yonge Street. Bedford Loop was built in June 1953 specifically for this purpose, although switches were laid so that cars arriving from the west, as well as the east, could turn around and go back the way they'd come. The loop, at the northwest corner of Bloor and Bedford, could also store several streetcars that could be dispatched quickly to handle the crowds leaving games at nearby Varsity stadium.
As the years went by, traffic increased along the Bloor-Danforth corridor, both passenger and automotive, and it became clear to the TTC that the new cross-town subway had to be located beneath Bloor Street. After the TTC overruled Metropolitan Toronto's own Planning Department, which still wanted the central part of the line to run under Queen Street, and after receiving financial assistance from Metro and the province, work began on the Bloor-Danforth subway.
The first leg of the new subway was the University line, extending from Union Station to St. George and Bloor, and opening on February 28, 1963. The new subway produced a new wave of streetcar abandonments, but did not significantly alter the Bloor line. Bedford Loop, which had seen Danforth tripper cars since March 30, 1954, was not incorporated into the transfer bays of the St. George station terminal of the University subway, even though 4 ANNETTE received such a privilege. Passengers wishing to connect with the subway at St. George had to use a transfer, even after getting off at Bedford loop. Additional service operated on Bloor Street between St. George station and Jane loop, although this wasn't listed as its own route. This arrangement remained until 1966.
When the Bloor Subway opened between Keele and Woodbine on February 26, 1966, the Bloor Streetcar was shattered. Stub routes remained in service, operating from a new loop at Keele Station to Jane Loop on the west and between Woodbine station and Luttrell Loop to the east. At Keele, the temporary streetcar loop was separate from the station's bus loop; a retirement home now occupies the site. Streetcar passengers entered the station just inside the fare barrier of the Indian Grove / Indian Road / car park automatic entrance; from here a moving ramp led to one of the subway platforms. Much was made of this new moving sidewalk, with the TTC promoting it in their flyers, but it was shut down and walled off when the subway was extended to Islington on May 11, 1968.
Bloor streetcar night service also disappeared when the Keele-to-Woodbine section of the Bloor-Danforth subway opened. Buses served the line from Jane to Luttrell instead. The Bloor and Danforth shuttle streetcars themselves disappeared on May 11, 1968, when the Bloor-Danforth Subway was extended west and east to Islington and Warden Stations respectively.
Today, very little evidence remains that streetcars ever operated on Bloor Street or Danforth Avenue. The suburban terminals of Jane and Luttrell Loops have been demolished and redeveloped. Tracks have disappeared due to roadwork. A slight bend in the sidewalk exists on Bloor Street, just east of Yonge, where the safety islands used to ferry passengers directly from the Bloor Streetcar to the Yonge subway. A streetcar track can be seen on Strathmore Boulevard where the loop bearing Danforth shuttles entered into Woodbine station, but no other signs exist of the once great streetcar operation that anchored Toronto's great crosstown artery.
Bloor Streetcar Image Archive
- Brown, James A. and Brian West, 'All about the Bloor-Danforth Subway' UCRS Newsletter, March 1966, p50-56, The Upper Canada Railway Society, Toronto (Ontario), 1966.
- Hood, J. William, The Toronto Civic Railways: An Illustrated History, The Upper Canada Railway Society, Toronto (Ontario), 1986.
Special Thanks to Mark Brader, John Bromley and Ray Corley for their assistance in the construction of this page